“I think we’re going to look back on the Internet in 50 to 100 years as a big mistake,” said My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James at a SXSW Music Q&A with MTV Networks’ Bill Flanagan. “It’s like this horrible drug that we’re all super addicted to.”
James was at the panel discussing his newest solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God, among other things, but he pulled no punches when it came to the follies and distractions of some of the technology that is pervasive in society today. “It’s definitely a good tool for spreading information, but at the same time it’s helped and hurt,” he continued. “It’s blown into this giant world with so much information, and I think that’s hurt a lot of bands.”
In a wide-ranging interview, James delved into his thoughts on the music industry (“the two words ‘music’ and ‘business’ don’t go together too well”), the poison of television (“It should be a medical device that should be wheeled out for invalids . . . It’s a great illness that has fallen upon our society”) and his opinion on songwriters such as John Denver (“He’s a soul I don’t quite understand . . . he’s like a wizard of tears”). He also touched on his recent production and recording work, which included producing the forthcoming Preservation Hall Jazz Band album.
“Preservation Hall is the sound of joy. When they start playing, people start moving,” he tolhe assembled crowd. “One thing I’ve learned is that the best thing a producer can do is help you be you.”
James emphasized energy and movement as two of the most important aspects of music, saying he appreciated artists such as Nick Cave for their songwriting abilities, but that it wasn’t until he got into artists such as Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield that he began to appreciate the beat that pushes music and people forward. “Hip-hop is the forward movement that speaks to the most people in the world [today],” he said.
Yet he also decried much of the splintering of genres and listening habits that exists today, echoing Flanagan’s observation that the people who were listening to Top 40 radio in the Seventies were consuming a much wider range of musical styles and songwriting than those today who focus on hip-hop, dance, country or other hyper-localized genres. “We should always be trying to tear down the walls and say, ‘I’m no different than you,'” he said. “We all sing about the same things.”